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Black Bear and Grizzly Bear

How To Tell The Difference

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Though the sign to the left is tongue in cheek, identifying black bear and grizzley bear (a sub-species of the brown bear) is quite easy.

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Black bear and grizzly bear cannot be distinguished by colour. Black bear can be black, blue-black, dark brown, brown, cinnamon and even a beautiful white coat found on the kermode or spirit bears.

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Similarly grizzly bears vary in colour from beige to black.

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You can’t tell the difference from size either because the age of the animal and where it is located can alter the size. However, grizzley can be much larger than black bear reaching up to 7 feet when standing up and up to 800 pounds as apposed the the black bear that would only top 5 feet and 400 pounds.

Ronald and Patricia came to visit Vancouver Island from the Netherlands. Patricia is a very patient photographer that was able to get some amazing shots of the grizzly bear in Knight’s Inlet when she was up in Courtney and then shot pictures of black bear here in Ucluelet. I hope you enjoy her pictures and that they might help you to tell the difference between the two bears.

The major difference between the two species are the profile of the shoulders, the profile of the face and the size of the claws.

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The black bear above has a flatter "roman nose" than the grizzley.

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The grizzly's face is more dished. You will also notice a pronounced hump on the back of the grizzly that is missing in the black bear.

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The grizzly has much larger claws. Grizzly claws can reach 6 inches in length and are meant for digging whereas the black bears claws are about 2 inches and meant for climbing trees.

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Additionally the ears of the grizzly are rounded and they sit more upright than those of the grizzly.

Try to identify which of the following six pictures are black bear and which are grizzly.The answers are on the bottom.


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The top right and bottom left are the only black bear. All the rest are grizzly.

Thank-you so much Patricia for all the wonderful photos. I just have to put this gem in a second time. It really is quite an amazing shot!

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